The annual sale of Christmas trees by the 67th Winnipeg Scout group will launch Nov.21, albeit with a pandemic-related twist.
This is the 56th year the Scout group is holding its tree sale in the parking lot at the River Heights site of the Corydon Community Centre, according to group commissioner Doug Strang.
"This is, by far, our biggest fundraiser of the year, and if it goes like last year, we’ll sell around 2,000 trees and a good number of wreaths," he said.
The 67th has seen its fair share of struggles due to the pandemic. After a complete shutdown of Scouting activities for several months, the group has slowly restarted meetings. Planning is week to week, and meetings are either in-person and outdoors or online, depending on the level of gathering restrictions in place, Strang said.
"We know families have been busy, with working from home, and different methods of schooling, but we’ve been asking them to do three shifts at the tree lot," he said, adding the tree lot is outdoors, and the group has put much thought into having people onsite.
In a normal year, the group leadership would draw up a huge sheet of paper with 70 volunteer shifts with room for 200 volunteers and walk that around to the meetings held by the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. "We had to do that online this year," Strang said, adding the volunteers set up the tree lot on Nov. 15, took in the first shipment of trees on Nov. 17 and will open the lot to the public on Nov. 21.
The tree lot is run by a local Winnipeg charity called Friends of 67. This organization co-operates with the 67th Winnipeg Scout Group with respect to the Christmas-tree lot. Friends of 67 operates the lot, and the Scout group provides the volunteers and receives the financial benefits from the operation.
That mini army of volunteers sets up the lot, including putting up fences, wood racks, lights and signs. Once the first truckload of trees is unloaded, as Strang puts it, "it’s beginning to look — and smell — a lot like Christmas."
"Everyone will be organized into cohorts, and we will track attendance," Strang said, adding only those age 15 and up are being allowed to volunteer.
This year, the 67th Scouts are offering a delivery service and curbside pickup for trees, wreaths and tree bags. In-person browsing of the trees will not be allowed under code red pandemic restrictions, he said. "We’ll have an online form available for those who want their tree delivered."
Also, wholesale tree prices have jumped from last year. While most of the trees the group sells come from Manitoba, and Canada, prices are set in the North American market. With recent wildfires, particularly in Oregon, tree farms have been destroyed, which has put significant pressure on prices, he said.
"Prices will go up by around $3 to $5 per tree," Strang said, adding trees range in price from $15 up to $100 for the rarer types of trees. "We are hoping to bring in between $15,000 and $20,000 from the sale. And we’re hoping our regular customers continue to buy trees. We appreciate everyone who sticks with us this year."
That money represents the group’s ability to ensure "no one is left behind", as the Scouts Canada slogan puts it. The group uses the money to help families struggling financially with the cost of putting their boy or girl into Scouting, along with paying for camps, equipment and other activities.
Their membership is slightly down this year, Strang said. "We’ve been holding group meetings over Zoom and Teams and Google. Normally, we’d be working on group cooking projects, building shelters or learning how to run a Klondike team," he said. "Instead, we’re focusing on virtual activities and trying to make it fun."
The 67th Winnipeg Scout group Christmas tree sale runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 12 noon to 6 p.m., along with weekdays from 4:30 to 9 p.m. for approximately a month while trees last.
For more, see www.67thwpgscouts.ca/home/how/christmas-tree-sale
Susie Strachan is the community journalist for The Sou'wester. Call her at 204-697-7150 or 204-583-4718 or email her at: email@example.com